Call for Dolls, 39th Annual Black Doll Exhibit


Department of Cultural Affairs


Nov 13, 2019 - 12:00 am



39th Annual Black Doll Exhibit – December 7, 2019 – February 15, 2020

Call for Dolls – September 11, 2019 – November 13, 2019

The William Grant Still Arts Center is in the process of selection for its 39th annual Black Doll Show. With this year’s theme, “Psycha-Dolly-A” we are celebrating Black dolls, either original art “dolls” or manufactured dolls, paintings, posters, quilts, doll houses, cars reflecting the bright colors and themes from the groove/funk/psychedelic movement from the 1960s, 70s and it resurgence in the 90s.


The Blackdoll show was inspired by a doll test conducted by Mamie and Kenneth Clark. The tests concluded that due to social stigmas, many black children preferred white dolls over black dolls. This test went on to become evidence in civil rights lawsuits. The Clarks became expert witnesses in Brown vs. Board of education and helped the landmark decision to desegregate schools. This doll test was conducted again in 2006 by 17 year old filmmaker Kiri Davis, sadly with the same results.

Inspired by the doll test, artist/curator Cecil Fergerson started the Black Doll show in the 80s. Wanting to change the negative self-image, Fergerson brought together handmade dolls by artists around the country into one exhibit. Through its many transformations, the Black Doll Show has been a celebration of Black dolls from slavery, Jim Crow, freedom marches, music, dance, jazz, hip-hop and more.


This year’s theme, “Psycha-Dolly-A” chosen by the staff at William Grant Still Arts Center, seeks to showcase a revolutionary movement in joy, through Black life, music, art, fashion and popular culture. Looking at the source of the soul/funk as a celebration of events that are monumental and small, ordinary, and extraordinary, events that depict Black life in all its facets. On a deeper level this year’s theme seeks to explore cultural image as depicted through the beauty and diversity of dolls. It seeks to reshape the dialog on Black Life & Identity as portrayed in media and in dominant society through highlighting Black is Beautiful, natural hair, counter culture, self-empowerment and agency.


Some criteria and ideas to think about:
Bright colors
Psychedelic Music, Art, Fashion
Funk, Soul, Jazz Hip-Hop
3 feet high and rising
Flowers, unicorns, mushrooms and fantasy in the theme
Peace, Joy, love, unity
Black light
Bell Bottoms, tie dye, love beads, blow-out combs, platforms
Gogo dancers
The Dolls can be “artists” dolls, representational or not, collectibles, cloth, porcelain, plastic, manufactured, etc…

Submission Guidelines – How To Submit – 2019/20 Doll Show
1. Please send a JPEG photo of your doll/dolls/related artwork to by November 4, 2019, with a short description and introduction to your work. (Submission of photos does not constitute acceptance into the show).
2. Dolls that are accepted into the show will be notified and receive next steps for delivery to William Grant Still Arts Center by November 12, 2019.
3. If chosen, deliver intake dates for dolls or artwork are by appointment during the Week of Nov. 25th through December 3, 2019


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